Hokkien clan to boost fund for undergrads to $20m next year

Fund chairman Ko Oon Joo says the association wants to do more for needy students. So far, the fund has benefited over 60 students.
Fund chairman Ko Oon Joo says the association wants to do more for needy students. So far, the fund has benefited over 60 students.

Chinese clan association Leong Khay Huay Kuan will double its Education Trust Fund to $20 million from next year to help more needy students and extend its aid to include all Singaporeans, irrespective of race or Chinese dialect, at the five public-funded universities here.

The association, a Hokkien clan group whose 220 members trace their roots to a city in China's Fujian province, started a $10 million fund in 2013 to help members' children who were undergraduates.

Last year, it signed agreements with the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University (SMU), the Singapore University of Technology and Design and the Singapore Institute of Technology, allowing non- members' children studying at these institutions to benefit as well, although one of their parents must still be a native Hokkien speaker.

Under the agreements, Leong Khay pledged a total of $120,000 annually to the institutions for three years, so each could give up to eight bursaries or cash awards of $3,000 to needy students every year.

The association leaves the selection and definition of "needy students" to the individual universities. SMU, for example, defines them as "students whose per capita household income is under $1,900".

The fund's chairman, Mr Ko Oon Joo, 62, told The Straits Times: "We just wanted to do more."

He will announce the increase in the fund's amount and the association's plans to benefit more needy Singapore students at Leong Khay's 77th anniversary dinner on Saturday.

He noted that more than 60 students have benefited since the fund was started three years ago.

He said the money may not be very much but was enough to make it possible for needy students to stop doing part-time work and concentrate on their studies.

He said the association set up the Education Trust Fund, probably the largest by any Chinese clan group here, after making profits from the investment and sale of properties in Geylang and Serangoon areas over the past 10 years.

Leong Khay chairman Ko Oen Tjiang, 64, said he would need to sign annex agreements with the five local universities soon to increase the amount of financial assistance to them as well as extend the benefits to more students, including those from other races.

The new agreements would allow each of the universities to give out 12 instead of eight awards every year, and the quantum of the awards would also be increased, he added.

He and Mr Ko Oon Joo are cousins.

More than 40 students who benefited from the fund met Leong Khay clan leaders for the first time last month, at an ice-cream parlour at Gillman Barracks.

"We intend to encourage them to be volunteers at our association, and to find out from them how else we can help students like them," Mr Ko Oen Tjiang said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2016, with the headline 'Hokkien clan to boost fund for undergrads to $20m next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe